Course Creation ✍️ • 13 min read

Cohort-Based Courses: The Future of Course Creation in 2022!

Kirsty Wilson 1/20/2022

Welcome to cohort-based courses—the next phase of online education.

Psychologists discovered the benefits of cohort-based learning while researching how people best learn.

One feature they found that learners were craving is a sense of community.

The people we learn with and from can significantly impact how a course affects our personal and professional development.

Traditionally, educators focused on self-paced courses to help people at scale.

Today, they're seeing a colossal boost in student success rates by shifting to cohort-based coaching.

So, what is the cohort-based meaning of learning?

Let’s look at why it’s taking the educational world by storm.

What Is Cohort-Based Learning?

Remember your school days?

First, push aside the agonizing memories.

Then, recall how you and your classmates all started at the same time. And (most of) you graduated together.

You advanced simultaneously through the same curriculum organized around a specific syllabus.

That’s what is meant by “cohort” in education. It’s synchronous learning.

You and your classmates were a cohort.

Now let’s fast forward to 2022.

Cohort programs have contributed to the explosive shift from learning within a physical classroom to a virtual one.

Lessons are now streamed live via video conferencing tools. And, students are equipped with all the course activities and materials they need to learn.

While cohort-based courses are online, participants still feel that much-needed sense of community. They can make friends and build relationships as though they were in the same physical space.

What’s more, students enjoy a more structured and collaborative learning experience by navigating a course together.

They also lean into a more positive outlook towards their studies. Which is a great way to get students to spread the word and encourage future cohorts to enroll.

Cohort-Based Courses vs. Self-Paced Courses

Self-paced and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are passive learning styles.

MOOCs are free or low-cost, complete online courses offered by various academic institutions.

In contrast, standard self-paced modules are more topic-specific, are shorter in duration, and charge a fee.

These learning styles are excellent at scaling access to first-rate eLearning content globally.

But students don’t have direct access to their instructor.

This lack of collaboration is where self-paced learning falls flat. It's just one of the reasons for abysmal completion rates of 5 to 15%.

However, cohort-based learning goes above and beyond! This active learning style fosters a much higher level of engagementand completion.

How?

Cohort-based courses (CBCs) offer a greater interactive and immersive experience. In addition, they focus on togetherness and community, which learners lack in self-paced courses.

This community-based learning is the most significant difference between cohort-based and self-paced learning.

Participants don’t feel so isolated, as they face the demands of completing a course together.

Benefits of Cohort-Based Courses

The three fundamental pillars that combine to supercharge cohort-based learning

What are cohort-based courses’ advantages over self-paced learning?

In short, it encourages motivation, accountability, diverse perspectives, and connections between students.

Let’s unpack why it works so well.

For Students

1. Higher completion rates

The completion rate for self-paced programs is 22% lower than traditional classroom courses. However, the best cohort-based courses experience completion rates of up to 88%.

This metric alone shows why cohort-based courses are the next frontier of online education.

Why is the completion rate so high?

Cohort-based courses actively engage students. They can ask questions and get answers from their teacher and peers in real-time.

If they feel stuck or unmotivated, the group will motivate them to soldier on.

And, unlike MOOCs, students show their commitment by paying course fees, which works to secure low attrition rates.

2. Greater accountability

Hands up if you’ve bought a self-paced online course but later lost interest?

Unfortunately, this happens all too often in self-paced courses.

It turns out we’re not very good at keeping promises we make to ourselves.

But in cohort-based learning, students hold themselves and each other accountable. Everyone has defined, manageable goals, and they can see each other’s progress.

Or lack thereof.

However, most students are extrinsically motivated to turn up for class. And they know their peers will miss them if they’re absent.

So learners are more likely to push through, so they don’t let the group down.

3. Diversity

When students learn independently, they can’t bounce ideas off their peers and educators.

However, cohort-based learning brings people together from different backgrounds and experiences.

This diverse environment encourages group discussions and promotes new ways of thinking.

4. Better support system

Self-paced learning can be an isolating learning experience.

However, a cohort-based program allows students to feel a sense of camaraderie.

When students lean on each other for support, it can foster a caring and emotionally intelligent learning environment.

If one student struggles, their peers offer coaching. And discussing the lessons together helps everyone understand the new material better.

5. Active Learning

Cohort-based courses encourage students to get involved, creating an active learning environment.

Students stay engaged through live discussions, case studies, problem-solving, and role-play.

They then apply, analyze, and evaluate the learned information, which promotes learning success.

The good news is, cohort-based training doesn’t only benefit students.

For Course Creators

Cohort-based learning model compared to alternatives in terms of scale and pricing.

The eLearningincluding cohort-based coursesmarket size surpassed $250 billion in 2020.

And it’s expected to grow by 21% to $1 trillion by 2027.

So, there’s never been a better time to get on board and make some serious bank.

Here’s how the cohort-based model benefits you as a course creator:

1. Identify knowledge gaps

Instantly recognize knowledge gaps through class discussions with present and engaged learners.

As you identify what’s missing, create supportive, asynchronous material to fill in the gaps and clarify specific topics.

2. Personalized instruction and supporteven in a crowd

Cohort coaching is highly personalized and scalable so that you can reach hundreds of students at once.

Your live training and Q&A sessions allow you to answer questions and introduce support materials as your students need them.

For example, if one student has a question, others likely have the same question. So instead of answering that question repeatedly, you answer it once for the entire group.

3. Strength-based learning

Focus on students’ strengths rather than their learning shortfalls.

Strength-based learning strategies encourage students to trust their natural abilities and expand on them.

You could even let the cohort guide the course direction and adjust your training on the fly for uber-customized learning.

Then, your strength-based learning cohort will be happier, more engaged, and experience a higher success rate.

4. Better student retention

Cohort learning promotes higher-order thinking skills, so it’s easier for knowledge to stick in your students’ brains.

But, participants won’t just be memorizing and regurgitating information.

Instead, you’ll empower them to integrate the learned knowledge into their personal or professional lives.

6. Makes planning a breeze

Once you’ve designed your course, the hard work is done!

Because you’ll teach the same lessons in the same order, your planning will take hardly any time at all.

What’s more, the online course platform you use to host your online school does all the heavy lifting for you.

Just add your course schedule to the current calendar for each new cohort. Then, show up for your students, teach the material, and answer their questions.

7. Easy to selland at a higher price

Cohort-based courses are generally listed at a higher value than self-paced courses.

Why?

Because classes are live and require a higher level of involvement by educators and students.

As cohort learning offers more value to learnerslike accountabilitystudents are willing to pay good money so that you can set a higher price.

8. Increases instructor confidence

Typically, course creators expect to build a course and hover in the background.

However, a cohort model requires you to present yourself live to your class to facilitate a group learning experience.

We get it.

Speaking live may be well out of your comfort zone. But, actively engaging with your participants will boost their trust and confidence in you.

And this can lead to more subscriptions and enrollments down the road.

9. Stand out from the crowd

When students have direct access to their educator, it helps you stand out in a fiercely competitive online course market.

For many students, the opportunity for live engagement is an enormous drawcard. Many learners value the ability to speak with their educator and peers in real-time.

So, offering a cohort-based course can encourage those on the fence to enroll in your course.

Some Disadvantages of Cohort-Based Courses

While cohort-based courses have an astonishing range of benefits, this type of teaching isn’t a model where you “set and forget.”

Cohort-based learning requires constant attention and involvement.

So, you will need to stay on top of things every step of the way.

Here are a few challenges:

1. Managing group dynamics

Managing group dynamics can be challenging.

You’ll most likely have some "extra" personalities, so you’ll need to establish norms, practices, and expectations for the group.

If learners struggle with conflict, tension, and value clashing within the community, you could have a problem on your hands.

How to Deal

Maintain an active role inside the learning community. Set clear boundaries and expectations from the outset to mitigate frustration and conflict.

2. Different skill levels

No doubt you’ll have learners enroll in your course with varying levels of knowledge. And, your course content could be irrelevant to some with greater experience or expertise.

How to Deal

Check your participants’ skill levels beforehand to ensure you address the beginners and the more advanced students. Then, customize the learning material accordingly.

3. Student participation

Obviously, you need enrollments for a cohort-based course to work.

Therefore, participation is vital.

Yes, cohort-based courses tend to attract higher engagement. But, you’ll still need to encourage learners to actively participate at all times.

How to Deal

Focus more time and energy on promoting your course to get student sign-ups. Plus, prepare icebreakers during class discussions if your group is shy or their attention starts to dwindle.

Resources for Cohort-Based Learning

Equip yourself with the right tools to help you and your students crush it.

Here are some resources to support your communication, management, feedback, and collaboration:

For communication

Slack - Your Digital HQ

Conduct live classes and group sessions via Zoom featuring whiteboard options. Zoom’s free plan allows you to host up to 100 participants and unlimited group meetings for up to 40 minutes.

Streamline communication with Slack by creating channels for different topics, departments, or cohorts. Choose from free, Pro, Business+, and Enterprise plans.

For course management

Since cohort learning requires live lesson scheduling, integrating an online calendar like Doodle is essential.

Easily schedule meetings, show release dates of modules, assignment due dates, and live lecture times.

You can also gather student feedback through polls to help you serve your class better.

For feedback

Typeform Surveys

Use Typeform, Jotform Survey Maker, or Google Forms to learn more about your students and gather feedback.

Both tools give your students the chance to provide vital information about their needs, course experience, and what’s working and what’s not. It’s also a great way to discover which students need extra help or support.

It’s also a fantastic tool for gathering student testimonials to add to your website, social media, and digital marketing campaigns.

Typeform’s Basic plan starts at $25 per month, Jotform has a free starter plan, and Google Forms’ Business standard plans start at $12.

For collaboration

Retrium is a powerful tool that helps the group gather data, follow along and collaborate. In addition, students can share feedback anonymously. Plans start at $30 per month.

Miro is a free, virtual training whiteboard. Host brainstorming research, strategy, and planning events. Free plans are available.

Google Docs and Sheets are also excellent free resources for collaboration.

How To Get Started With  Cohort-Based Courses

Have you created courses or coaching programs before?

If yes, then transitioning to a cohort-driven course approach is relatively straightforward.

In fact, you could continue selling a self-paced version with a cohort coaching upgrade.

But, if you’re new to course creation, it may feel like a daunting task.

Rest assured that it becomes infinitely more manageable when you break down the learning process into tangible steps.

Here’s how to build a cohort-based course:

1. Choose a platform

Cohort-based courses platforms help you:

  • Build an online course website (or integrate an existing one)
  • Create epic sales landing pages
  • Price your course and collect payments
  • Upload videos, assignments, quizzes, and interactive content
  • Engage with participants and create communities
  • Host live events
  • Track analyticsFollow the cohort course progress of each student.

Two leading platforms, Thinkific and Teachable, have already helped content creators generate billions of dollars in revenues.

Check out these cohort-based courses:

Maven

Maven empowers course creators to build highly-scalable courses at a premium price. Build your brand and emerge as a thought leader while providing your students the best possible learning experience.

Maven offers a free course accelerator for newbies. When you host your course through Maven, they will earn a small percentage of your course revenue.

Thinkific

Build a beautiful, customizable, branded site through Thinkific. You maintain total control of your business through a single platform.

Easily integrate email automation, lead conversion, and promotional bundle creation tools.

Test-drive for free or choose paid plans starting from $39 per month.

(For more information about Thinkific, don’t miss our Thinkific review, an overview of Thinkific pricing, our list of Thinkific alternatives, and some real-world Thinkific examples for inspiration.)

Xperiencify

Xperiencify's revolutionary platform uses seven powerful psychological triggers to get your students hooked.

Gamification features like countdown timers, and live leaderboards will get students addicted, fast.

And Xperiencify’s unlimited free trial lets you take as much time as you need to build your online course. You’re only charged when you’re ready to take your cohort-based course live.

After that, plans start from $49 per month.

Learnworlds

Build a beautiful, SEO-optimized site through LearnWorlds. Create interactive material to capture student attention, boost engagement, and increase learning efficiency.

Plans start from $29 per month.

Kajabi

Kajabi's robust platform offers landing pages, marketing automation, analytics, email, and communities. In addition, you can set up one-time customer payments, installments, trials, subscriptions, and upsells.

Start for free, then paid plans start at $149 per month.

(Looking for more information about Kajabi? We’ve got you covered with our comprehensive Kajabi review, an in-depth look at Kajabi pricing, and some Kajabi alternatives for your consideration.)

Teachable

Join over 100,000 creators and market leaders such as the NY Times and Shopify. Teachable's user-friendly platform will help you build a professional online school quick-smart.

Get started free, or choose paid plans from $29 per month.

(Don’t miss our expansive review of Teachable, our deep-dive into Teachable’s pricing plans, and take a look at some alternatives to Teachable.)

Podia

Podia packs some titan course creation tools into one platform. Build and sell your course through a customizable, intuitive user interface.

Start with a 14-day trial before selecting paid plans from $39 per month.

2. Find your target audience

Generate a detailed profile of the people you’re creating the course for.

Consider the following:

  • What does your target audience need?
  • What are their learning outcomes?
  • What problem are you solving for them?

3. Figure out your course format

Know your strengths, do what feels natural to your teaching style and make choices based on what fires you up.

For example, do you favor a tight structure, or do you prefer to wing it?

If you have courses that you don’t want to teach live, pull transcripts, edit them, and pre-record them.

Then, during your sessions, you can review the material, answer questions, and demonstrate the skills you’re teaching.

4. Create your course curriculum

Design the curriculum to support your structure, learning outcomes, and audience goals.

Plot the learning path and schedule your lessons, lectures, and modules. Plus, organizing your course will help ease any nerves about teaching it.

What’s more, it will also bolster your students’ confidence in you.

Create an outline of your course that includes:

  • The topic of each training session
  • The lesson plan, including learning objectives
  • The materials you’ll require for each lesson
  • The homework you’ll administer at the end of each lesson

5. Set your course price

A cohort-based course is generally priced higher than a self-paced course and less than one-on-one coaching.

Do your research, view competitor pricing, and choose a price that aligns with your goals and what your students would be willing to pay.

6. Launch and market your course

A sales or landing page gives your students a place to go to learn more about you. Here, they can discover the price, understand the educational content, the course structure, and get in touch.

Include a section for future cohorts to join a mailing list. Collect the email addresses and promote your course in an email marketing campaign.

This is also an excellent opportunity for you to pre-sell your course. Create a buzz on social media and get people on a waitlist before officially launching your program.

7. Establish a community

Simply, cohort-based courses means a group of people coming together through a shared goal or interest.

So, seize the opportunity to focus on the value of community from the outset.

Set up a community discussion using Facebook groups or your chosen platform’s community portal. Let visitors know that they can ask questions and get support between live sessions.

It’s also a great way to get the conversation flowing early between classmates. Start a thread where they can introduce themselves and explain what they’re hoping to learn from the course.

8. Break out into groups

Google Hangouts

If you have a large number of participants, drive learner engagement by breaking students into smaller groups.

This allows students to learn through more personalized learning experiences and group activities.

For example, you could have learners identify an article that applies to the learned topic and share key takeaways with their peers.

Connect on Google Hangouts or use Zoom Breakout rooms to split your Zoom meeting into 50 separate sessions.

9. Get shout-outs from your students

Testimonials are a remarkable way to prove that your coaching kicks butt!

Splash them liberally over your sales page, order page, and in your emails.

Take a screenshot when students give you a rave review or share their success. You could also ask for a video testimonial.

Join the Cohort-Based Revolution

Online education is changing, and cohort-based courses are the latest step in a long, evolutionary process.

Cohort-based courses add a human and social element to online learning.

Make an impact and supercharge your online course through cohort-based training.

Grow your business and establish yourself as a fearless industry leader.

Now go, create, and slay.